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Internet shut down in parts of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh during Ayodhya verdict

Internet services were suspended between November 9-10 in parts of the country, in anticipation of the Supreme Court’s verdict on Ayodhya land dispute case which was delivered on November 9.

Uttar Pradesh:

In Aligarh, internet servicess were shut down for 24 hours, starting midnight of November 8, on orders of the Aligarh District Magistrate. The internet shutdown was preemptive, i.e. ordered in anticipation of violence; the magistrate’s suspension order cites the possibility of unrest and disturbance in the law and order, due to misinformation on WhatsApp, Facebook, and Twitter. It’s worth noting that the ban was imposed under Section 144 of the CrPC, and not by the Home secretary of Uttar Pradesh, as required under the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services Rules under the Telegraph Act. Section 144 prohibits assembly of 5 or more people.

Banking services and government services were exempted from suspended internet services. Netblocks, which tracks internet shutdowns with real-time technical data, said that the impact was on residential and wireless networks and excluded government networks.

  • After Aligarh, internet services were also suspended in Agra for 24 hours, starting midnight of November 8. Uttar Pradesh DGP OP Singh had said that internet shutdowns could be imposed in other districts as and when the situation demanded to check the spread of communally sensitive posts and rumours.
  • Internet services were suspended in Meerut and Saharanpur, according to a Mint report.
  • Despite the preemptive shutdowns in other parts of UP, the Ayodhya district administration did not place any curbs on mobile and internet usage.

Rajasthan:

Internet services were suspended in Jaipur commissionerate initially for 24 hours starting November 9, but the suspension was reportedly extended until Monday. MediaNama was unable to reach officials at Jaipur police for an update.

  • Internet was also suspended in Bharatpur district of Rajasthan by the Divisional Commissioner for 24 hours, starting 6 am on November 9.

85 shutdowns in 2019 so far

There have been 85 internet shutdowns in India so far, as compared to 134 internet shutdowns in 2018, according to SFLC.in’s Internet shutdowns tracker. It’s worth noting that internet shutdowns can be regional or hyperlocal, and may not capture mainstream attention. As a result, it’s likely that there might have been more internet suspensions than reported. This became evident when RTI filings by SFLC revealed 26 unreported internet shutdowns in Rajasthan between August 2017 to May 2018, in addition to the 14 internet shutdowns that were already known.

Of the 85 shutdowns in India this year, 55 have been in Jammu and Kashmir. Internet services have been suspended in Kashmir since the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution in August 2019. The internet shutdown in Kashmir has now been in effect for over 3 months.

Last week, the Supreme Court said that shutting own mobile, landline, and internet services for 90 days following abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution was “by no means a temporary measure”. The court was hearing Kashmir Times‘ editor Anuradha Bhasin’s petition against the communications shutdown in Kashmir.

Read our coverage of internet shutdowns.

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